The mountain dilemma - Holy Site or Campus first?

Tomice

Passionate Smart-Ass
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I often have this dilemma:
There are one or more nice +3 mountain adjacency spots near my capital.
Should I research astrology and build a Holy Site or research writing and build a Campus first?

Going for the Holy Site first opens up the chance to found a religion, maybe even one with decent beliefs. It also may allow a monumentaly golden age push that is so essential for early expansion. But I tend to lack enough science, especially if I try to build two holy sites for more faith-bought settlers.

Going for the Campus instead boosts science and makes me generally stronger, but it might also mean missing a religion of my own and not having as much for monumentalism.

Any advice?
What to prioritize, especially if there's only one such spot per city?

Also, is there another district that's as important in the early game?


Note: this thread assumes that we don't play as a civ that's biased strongly towards a certain victory condition or a certain district and aren't overly focused on a religious victory. Civs that need religion to use their unique abilities properly also don't count.
 
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jehtro777

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Mar 4, 2021
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I think it probably depends on the Civ you are playing, game modes activated, the difficulty you are playing on, victory path you are pursuing. Some civs play well with the religion added in for a culture game. It can also be a big buzz kill to lose out on one if you actively pursued it. I think heroes mode makes the holy sites more valuable for the discount to purchase your hero back even without a religion.

Ultimately, I think since you are just considering the holy site as something extra build the campus first because those yields on science will help you immediately.

There are other ways to get a religion besides a quick holy site if you aren't super serious about pushing for one. You could push to a tier 2 government to play great prophet points in a Wildcard slot or you can try to push for an ancient era golden age.

If I want a little faith economy without a religion sometimes I just take some later game holy sites. You'd be surprised how often you get Feed the World spread to you when you don't even have a religion.

I can give you an example of a game I got a "free religion". This game I am in now on deity as the Maya I founded a religion with no holy site. I got a golden era with Himiko. Himiko gave me 3 suzerainities and I levied the troops for the additional era score. I had 36/25 era score in the ancient era going that route. I didn't do anything but try to build Observatories for the whole Ancient era though. You can do somewhat similar things with Amani.
 
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Vargas1

Prince
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Sep 30, 2020
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Honestly it depends what you would use the religion for. If you think you're likely to have several good adjacency locations and want to run work ethic, then it might be worth getting that up early. If you want to try to rush one of the first two beliefs (almost always Choral Music and Feed the World), then you would need the early HS. If you find an early relic and want to make sure you get a religion for reliquaries, then you build HS.
If you don't have any particular plans to use religion in your game, then you're probably better off going with a campus. As @jehtro777 said, depending on difficulty you may be able to back into a religion later anyway, though that would also depend on the other civs, etc.
 

Tomice

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I'm not a fan of the religious victory and usually enjoy peaceful expansion, trade, and naval exploration/settling (Maori/Phoenicia/Portugal/Australia/...).
The early holy site would be more about using monumentality for faster expansion and defensive usage of my own religion.

The question is whether it's worth pursuing a holy site for this or completely neglecting it in favor of campus, harbor, and government plaza (under the assumption that there is a good spot for it)
 
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For non religious peaceful games, such as a science victory, I would advise going Holy Site first in most of your expands provided they are quality locations. Keep the +4 Campus spots in mind however if pursuing a science win. With the Work Ethic belief, the cities will get online faster and be able to power through the Campus & buildings while providing the faith for settler spam without putting a burden on your cities' production queue.

In summary:
-Set up a strong Classical era Monumentality with as much faith gen as you can muster with Holy Sites and the belief that bolsters your civ appropriately. If going Work Ethic, grabbing the Scripture card asap will be a huge boon with this strategy.
-Magnus tour to chop Holy Sites and Campuses to slingshot ahead in late Classical/early Medieval. With an efficient Magnus tour backed by an army of builders, holy sites and campuses can get online in each city within a matter of turns.
-Early culture can be had from Monuments (obviously) and a well placed Colosseum. A couple of well placed Theater Squares around the wonder and EC can give a huge culture culture boost at this phase and are candidates for next district priority. If you lack a quality Colosseum due to terrain, consider a different wonder for a similar impact on the Theater Squares.
-Consider Mahabohdi Temple for evangelizing your belief and/or defending your religion. It's approximately three chops with Magnus and Corvee and will save a lot of faith at this stage of the game. Apostles are expensive and cannibalize settler spam.

This doesn't take Civ specific bonuses into consideration and can vary depending on abilities, but it's a solid template. I tend to not fall in love with early campuses since I'm not getting the early great scientists anyway, and they'll be online soon enough.
 
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